The survivors of a Coral Springs mother who died at 38 from smoking-related lung cancer were awarded $37.5 million by a Fort Lauderdale jury.
Laura Grossman, 36 when diagnosed with cancer, made one of the most valiant struggles to live that her pain management doctor said she had ever witnessed, according to testimony in the trial that ended Wednesday.
The defendant, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., was assessed 75 percent fault on a $15 million compensatory damage award. However, the entire award goes to the family because the jury found Reynolds committed an intentional tort, said plaintiffs attorney Steven J. Hammer of the Schlesinger Law Offices in Fort Lauderdale. In addition, the family was awarded $22.5 million in punitive damages.
Grossman died in 1995, leaving behind her husband Jan, 11-year-old daughter Jessica and 3-year-old son Steven.
Grossman started smoking at 15 in 1972. Reynolds attorneys argued she was responsible for her illness since cigarette packs had by then begun carrying warning labels.
However, Grossman was in the demographic targeted by tobacco companies — a young teen whose developing brain was highly susceptible to nicotine’s addictive properties, said Scott Schlesinger, who worked on the case with Jonathan Gdanski and Brittany Chambers, all of the same firm.
“Laura Grossman’s horrible, painful death was made that much worse with the family’s telling of their loss,” said Schlesinger, recalling the effect on jurors who were at times moved to tears. “This was the most emotionally raw case I’ve ever participated in.”
Reynolds relied on the warning labels for its defense, but jurors in the trial before Broward Circuit Judge Jack Tuter rejected that, Schlesinger said.
The Grossmans are one of about 8,000 families that were once part of the Engle class action against the major cigarette manufacturers. After the Florida Supreme Court disbanded the class in 2006, cases have been pursued individually.
Reynolds attorney Eric Lundt of Sedgwick in Fort Lauderdale had no comment on the case by deadline.